The Alaska Dept. of Health issued a warning on Jan. 31 regarding a new HIV outbreak in the Fairbanks/Interior region among people with multiple and/or anonymous sex partners, those engaged in condomless sex, and people who use apps on Grinder and Snapchat to hook up for sexual encounters.
This is the second time in the past year that Alaska’s Section of Epidemiology (SOE) has identified an HIV cluster in Fairbanks. Last year, the state reported three new cases of HIV among military service members within a four-week period. The latest announcement is worse than last year’s. It includes a new outbreak of six additional HIV cases in the same area, with more investigation ongoing.
These cases were identified in October through December of 2022. Among the newly infected, 67% had gonorrhea and/or chlamydia co-infections.
To address concerns about a wider outbreak, the state is recommending more frequent testing for STDs, “risk reduction techniques,” drug treatments and faster reporting of HIV and STD cases. In particular, the state recommends regular testing for those in the LGBTQ community.
“Test all sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, and all sexually active transgender persons at least annually for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea,” the SEO alert states. More frequent testing is recommended for people who “inject drugs and share injection drug use equipment, persons with multiple sex partners, persons diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, and persons with recent exposure to a sexually transmitted disease.”
The state also recommends screening “all parts of the body used for sex, including urogenital, rectal, and pharyngeal sites,” while encouraging STD patients to “refer their sex and/or needle sharing partners for testing and prevention services.”
The alert ends with a list of resources, including a link to Planned Parenthood clinics in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau, along with a host of other private and governmental testing locations. There are no faith-based or pro-life clinics listed, and at no point does the state mention the two most effective ways to avoid STDs or HIV – lifelong monogamy or abstinence.